Sunday, September 17, 2017

Jeremy Schaefer at Elgin Fringe Festival

Giving voice to a viewpoint that's rarely examined, Jeremy Schaefer's "Sportsball" questions the preeminence of sports in America in an effort to understand why fans devote so much attention to it.

Schaefer admits he sees baseball as just a field of daydreams, and football as 22 concussions waiting to happen. With well-chosen examples, he exposes the paradox of a sports culture in which every game is rule-based, but lawlessness and injustice in things that really matter are given no scrutiny at all. His sharp and insightful arguments are laid out with humor and lots of personality.

Jeremy Schaefer performs "Sportsball" at Elgin Fringe Festival.

Stopping just short of maligning all avid sports fans (an enormous group of people he doesn't fully understand), Schaefer discovers a basketball team he can rally with, based not on geography or brand loyalty, but for its social consciousness. In the process, he gets in touch with a part of his own humanity that sports fans have always deeply felt.

As tightly wound as a cello, he is just as musically eloquent in his delivery, going from growls to shouts to whispers with just the right timing and articulation, and his restless energy is often used to visual effect. He's a tough act to follow.

Sports is sacred in America, and Schaefer takes considerable risk by lampooning Cubs fans in an Elgin show, but ultimately he finds acceptance, if not community, in a sports culture that is profoundly diverse in every other way that really matters.

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